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Tech companies, Auburn University create longest synthetic virus for canine cancer research

The synthetic DNA virus could revolutionize personalized medicine for cancer treatment for both dogs and people

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Canine bone cancer research is getting a boost thanks to the efforts of a gene synthesis company, Gen9, a software company, Autodesk, and Auburn University. The combined effects of these three groups helped successfully manufacture a synthetic viral genome, called sCAV2. This virus, which has more than 34,000 base pairs in length, is the longest functional virus synthesized for oncology research. It is a replicate of an adenovirus that selectively targets and destroys tumor cells without killing healthy cells at the same time.

Armed with this virus, Bruce Smith, V.M.D, Ph.D,  professor in the Department of Pathobiology and director of the Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer (AURIC),  will use the it in clinical trials to evaluate therapeutic treatments in dogs with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer with a survival rate of less than 10 percent.

“Our concept is taking personalized medicine to precision medicine. The technology to create a new virus by synthesizing it is a huge leap, but the ability to then make a customized virus tailored to the specific needs of each patient will be transformative,” Dr. Smith said. “This could change the way we fight cancer. It is that revolutionary.”

To synthesize the virus, Gen9 used their BioFab DNA synthesis platform to create the sCAV2 oncolytic virus. The technology is able to manufacture hundreds of megabases of high-quality, long-length synthetic DNA in a shorter timeframe than traditional methods, reducing the development was reduced from months to weeks. Using a synthetic approach also opens up the possibility of the rapid creation of therapeutic viruses tailored to specific patients’ needs.

“The construction of this viral genome is a tremendous step for DNA synthesis and its application to therapeutics research,” said Dr. Devin Leake, vice president of Research and Development at Gen9. “Our partnership with Autodesk and Auburn sums up what fundamentally excites us the most about the field of synthetic biology and what we do here at Gen9—collaborating with world-class scientists on the groundbreaking research that is shaping the future.”

Autodesk assisted by 3D printing the virus. “This work demonstrates that personalized, made-on-demand therapies are within reach, and our efforts in combatting cancer in dogs could lead the way in next-generation care,” said Andrew Hessel, distinguished research scientist in the Autodesk BioNano Research Group, and the catalyst behind the project.

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